Shu Uemura was born in Tokyo in 1928 and established one of the earliest makeup artist brands, becoming a name in the industry through his work in Hollywood particularly when he made up Shirley MacLaine to appear Japanese (as was the practice at the time) for the 1962 movie My Geisha. In 1964 he returned to Japan and set up his own makeup studio, the Shu Uemura Makeup Institute in Tokyo, teaching the methods he’d learned in Hollywood. In 1967 he introduced the first oil-based cleanser to Japan, and started his own cosmetics company, Japan Makeup Inc,29 the following year he didn’t change the name to Shu Uemura until later. His unique and modern take on Japanese beauty really took off globally when the brand gained cult status in the late eighties. A huge range of colorful, artist-palette-style, single-eye shadows, accessories (including his world-famous eyelash curlers), and creative false eyelashes all in unique clear packaging with a distinctly Japanese feel led to a huge growth in sales. The company was bought by L’Oreal in 2000 and its products are now available in eighteen countries.30
MAC (Make-up Art Cosmetics) was created in Toronto in 1984 by makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and hair salon owner Frank Angelo. Like Max Factor before it, MAC manufactured makeup for a new generation of makeup artists. Before it launched, you just couldn’t get the colors and textures they offered. I remember when I was starting out, the makeup I wanted for shoots just wasn’t available in any of the mainstream makeup brands, so I would have to shop at theatrical makeup shops and art shops, mixing and blending my own often using brow pencils as lip liners, concealers as lipstick, and lip gloss as eye shadow. MAC understood what makeup artists really wanted and knew that it would translate to the general public via makeup artists and models talking to the backstage journalists about their essential MAC products.
Shu Uemura’s whimsical paperclip eyelashes resulted from the brand’s collaboration with Victor and Rolf in 2008.
Soon after MAC launched, Linda Evangelista praised their brownish-colored Spice lip pencil, creating a huge buzz around the brand and making the pencil a 1990 must-have beauty staple (Madonna famously wore MAC’s Russian Red lipstick on her Blonde Ambition tour). The company was an innovator in other ways, setting up the MAC AIDS Fund to support women, men, and children living with or affected by HIV in 1994, and donating all the money from sales of its Viva Glam lipsticks to the fund. In 1998, Estee Lauder bought the company out, and it became one-hundred-percent consumer-facing, although they continue to support the industry with a range of pro products, workshops, and makeup artist discount cards. They also continue to promote the brand as a backstage favorite, sponsoring show makeup at many of the fashion weeks around the world. Although the majority of sales center around âœbasicsâ (foundation, neutral eye shadows, and their classic lip colors), it’s their continuous limited editions (too many per year to count!) that are used as PR eye candy to drive sales and keep the brand current.